Interview: Huey Lewis


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In the Mansion section of today's Wall Street Journal (go here), I catch up with Huey Lewis in an interview about his Montana ranch. Huey, of course, rocketed to fame and fortune with the release of Sports in late 1983—an iconic rock-soul album that has just been remastered and will be re-issued as a two-CD set on Tuesday. [Photo above by Tom Robertson for The Wall Street Journal]

I found Huey to be a down-to-earth guy who seems to connect easily with virtually everyone. He's pretty much the way he appears on late-night talk shows—natural, laid back and eager. He's also pretty brainy, having graduated from Cornell in the 1970s. He has a brawny image that appeals to guys and a sensitivity and caring quality that lands him on gal radar. We had a great chat.

Back in 1983—when cable-TV was new and MTV was the YouTube of its day—soul, glam and punk slammed together in the UK, resulting in third British Invasion here. Known as Brit Pop, the music generally was highly visual and costume-y, largely because bands' record labels had to produce videos for MTV airing.

The music also was highly melodic and stylized. Chart entries by Brits included The Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Thomas Dolby's She Blinded Me With Science, Madness' Our House and Culture Club's Time. Of course, American artists were hardly slackers. Michael Jackson had megahit singles off of Thriller in '83, Billy Joel had a couple off of Nylon Curtain and DeBarge had All This Love. [Pictured above: Madness]

In October of '83, Huey Lewis and the News released an odd-duck album called Sports. Huey's music wasn't Brit or soul, and his image was more T-shirt and Wayfarers than glitter and Mohawk. The music was earthy and natural—akin to Doobie Brothers soul and bar-band rock. Overnight, the album appealed to virtually everyone—at a time when the music should have appealed to no one.

By the following year, four singles from the album had been in Billboard's top 10—Heart and Soul, I Want a New Drug, The Heart of Rock and Roll and If This Is It. In the process, Sports became something of a phenomenan and a musician's dream. One album managed to put Huey Lewis on the map and keep him there for decades. He's out on tour now performing Sports and he tells me a new album is in the works. Musicians dream of releasing just one runaway album and living off the results. Huey did just that. Go figure.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find the 30th anniversary edition of Sports here. The first disc is the original album remastered while the second disc features the same tracks but live versions of the songs.

JazzWax clip: In case you've forgoten about high hair, shoulder pads and Checker cabs, here's the original music video for The Heart of Rock and Roll...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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